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  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    AutoCollage – a simple Workshop


    There are two main keyword phrases that people use to find this blog from a web search. These are Autocollage and the Deep Zoom Composer Workshops. So when I was asked at a recent Innovative Teachers workshop, Did I have any guides about Autocollage?, writing an AutoCollage Workshop seemed to be a good idea.

    So, this post is based on the way I present AutoCollage at workshops. You should be able to modify this to suit your own needs. It is not a comprehensive guide, but more of a simple walkthrough.

    What is AutoCollage?

    AutoCollage is best described as an application that ‘allows you to create beautiful collages of your favourite pictures in a few clicks of a mouse’ . But, I always challenge teachers to look at this as not only as something to work with photos. But as an application that can allow pupils and students to record their thinking and ideas, letting them tell digital stories. This post will guide you through how to make a photo collage and some of the settings that you can use to get better results.

    Firstly, you will need to get yourself a copy of AutoCollage. As a teacher you can download a free copy from the Partners in Learning Network . You will need to be a member, you can sign up for free with your Windows Live ID. Once signed in you can find AutoCollage by following these links Resources>Tools and Programmes> More Tools and Programmes or by clicking HERE. You will also need  to ensure that you have the latest version of the .NET framework installed.

    Starting AutoCollageimage

    Before you start  AutoCollage, create a folder in your Pictures folder called Autocollage projects. Run AutoCollage, it will search your default Pictures folder. If you have a lot of  images in this folder AutoCollage will display them. This could take some time. So, make it look in your new folder by clicking on your newly created folder. You should see it listed in the area called Image Browser.


    Don’t wait for the images to load, you can click and select this folder immediately. Next, click the options button and change some of the settings. Click the Input Tab, now select Display detected faces and select Allow manual face detection. Repeat with Display ranking information and select Allow manual ranking.

    These simple steps will help when you being to create your collages.

    Next, transfer your images to your autocollage project folder. You will also need to ensure that the images are oriented correctly and are the images you want to use. AutoCollage does not have any image editing features so you cannot rotate or delete an image from inside it. You need to do this from your project folder and this is easy to do with the built in tools in Windows.image

    In AutoCollage, select the folder where your photos have been stored. You will see them begin to appear. Once all the images have  been loaded. You need to choose how many images you want to use. Usually this is the same as the number in the folder. To change the number of images to be used, adjust the slider accordingly. You need to use a minimum of 7 images and there is a maximum of 50. If you select a value more than the number of images, you will get an error message, just agree to create the collage. If you select a value less than the number of images in your folder, AutoCollage will automatically remove images from the collage. You have no control over which images it removes.image

    Now you are ready to create your collage, click the Create button, marvel at the animation,which always seems to mesmerise teachers and students alike. In moments your photo collage is created. If you don’t like it, click Create again. Although you have little control over how the images are used, there are some factors that you can use to influence your collage creation.

    Changing the options in AutoCollage

    At the start of this workshop you made some changes to the options. You can use these to influence how your images appear.

    AutoCollage uses facial recognition to identify the faces in images. If you have set the manual recognition options, you will be able to image select an area of an image that will be the focus point for the collage.

    To do this click and select an image, it will enlarge. Next, press and hold the CTRL key, click and drag over the area you want to highlight. A yellow box will appear. This area will be the focus. This is very useful, as you can see from this example ,when you have images that are not faces.

    The second element of control is to rank the images. Click on an image, you will see an icon in the top left of the chosen image. Clicking this will give


    you a variety of choices for ranking priority. This is useful to place a particular image at the centre of the collage. In this case, I have ranked this image top ranked, number 1 and all the other images, to the lowest setting of avoid this image. Using the same images as before, you can see how changing the ranking order affects the college design, with the top ranked image now appearing in the centre.



    Once created your collage is saved as a JPEG and used in the same way as any other image.

    In the next post, I will talk about how you can use AutoCollage in the classroom for digital storytelling and recording students ideas and thinking.

    In the meantime enjoy experimenting with this great resource.

  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    Internet Safety made easy by Internet Explorer 8 and CEOP


    Capture1 In honour of Safer Internet Day yesterday, Microsoft and CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre) launched the “Click Clever, Click Safe, Click CEOP” internet browser, part of Internet Explorer 8.

    Once installed, the browser puts a CEOP button on the Internet Explorer 8 toolbar. When a parent clicks this button, they can access free internet safety advice, report abuse or seek further help if they need it.

    More information and a free download of the browser can be found at this link:

    The BBC picked up the story of the browser yesterday, and early feedback has been positive already. Give it a try and let us know what you think.

    In addition, we’ve also released a guide for parents that helps them keep their children safe online. The guide can be downloaded for free from Microsoft’s web site HERE.

    Add this to the presentation and materials we provided in a blog last month – for schools to offer internet safety workshops for parents, and it’s a complete package for your schools, fellow teachers and parents.

  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    AutoCollage Workshop#2 – classroom ideas


    Microsoft partners in Learning_AutoCollage_50_ImagesIn my last post I described a simple walkthrough of AutoCollage and how to create a photo collage. Now lets look at some ways of how you can use AutoCollage to allow your pupils and students to describe and communicate their thinking and ideas through images.

    One obvious use is to create collages from all the photos that teachers and students take of their learning. So, instead of having many separate photos, you can have one or two showing lots of different activities. This is very useful when communicating events such sports days and other whole school events. Primary teachers have expressed the view that this is saving them an absolute fortune in printer ink, as they can produce a whole classroom  experience in one image and this is great to share with parents.

    This idea can be extended to school websites and portals, BECTa advise that schools should ‘consider using group photos rather than photos of individual children’ . This can easily be achieved using AutoCollage, negating the need to organise pupils and students into groups, having to stage photos and interrupting learning activities.

    An image collage can reflect the ‘energy’ of an event. Look at this example of 50 images taken from over 300 photos of our Innovative Teachers Forum held in December, I think it captures the essence of the day more than a gallery or slide show of images would. Imagine what it could do for your whole school events such as fetes and sports days.

    This is using  AutoCollage for what it was designed for, as a tool for displaying photos, but, where it can have real added value, is for teachers to view AutoCollage as a tool for digital story telling.

    This can be done by creating specific activities that challenge students and pupils to record their learning and communicate their ideas , using just images. This is a lot more difficult than it first seems. Especially if you only use a limited number of  images to create work. This encourages students to really think about the images they need to record for their stories. So, when the collages are ‘read’ by the audience, they should get an idea of the theme, idea or emotion that the student who created it was trying to convey. This can be a very powerful way to develop thinking skills and emotional intelligence.

    Using the manual facial recognition option, to highlight a specific area of an image, students can use images of objects to create collages. This is particularly useful in Science, Religious Education and History, subjects where artefacts are a valuable learning tool. Students can take images of objects that belong to a particular group such as invertebrates that are insects, and compare that collage with another collage of a group such as arachnids. Or religious artefacts seen in a church compared with that of a mosque, or even to document the artwork of particular artist. I sure you are be able to think of other learning opportunities where creating collections with AutoCollage would be useful.

    AutoCollage also makes a great tool for creating pupil/student portfolios of achievement, collections of photos taken by students of their learning over a term, year or even their whole school life can be combined into a collage. Creating a unique record of their learning achievements. If you are looking for a way to record student progress in Physical Education, then AutoCollage is a great way to document their activity in such a wide range of activities.

    Finally, think about using AutoCollage with other applications. Putting a collage image onto a PowerPoint slide, then creating clickable hotspots with callout text boxes allows students to add text and information to their collage. But, if you are looking for a real challenge how about combining AutoCollage, with Deep Zoom Composer to create complex multilayered collage.

    I hope these two workshops have highlighted the versatility and suitability of AutoCollage’s use in the classroom and have given you some ideas of how to use this great application in the classroom. If you have any ideas that you would be happy share with us, then let us know, for example check out Mike McSharry’s blog for some more help notes on how to use AutoCollage.

  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    Digital story telling tools from Microsoft


    My previous post described how you can use AutoCollage, timageo tell digital stories in the classroom, here is a great example from one of our award winning teachers, David Rogers, whose students have used this free application to make a comparison of their local area.

    Microsoft has a number of free tools that are ideal for digital storytelling, we have blogged about many of them, applications such as Photostory, Photosynth, Moviemaker, Deep Zoom Composer and even PowerPoint. Now there is available a free resource that describes in detail the benefits to learning of storytelling, as well as a practical guide to begin to create your activities in your classroom.

    Digital Storytelling in the classroom is a free e-book available here from Microsoft Education. It describes how using digital media to tell stories develops the following areas of development.

    image1. Creativity and innovation
    2. Communication and collaboration
    3. Research and information fluency
    4. Critical thinking, problem-solving, and decision-making
    5. Digital citizenship
    6. Technology operations and concepts


    Along with guidance, practical advice and examples this e-book is ideal to develop ideas about using technology in the classroom. along with this e-book you can download templates of storyboards and assessment criteria.

    If you have any ideas and experiences of using these, or any other applications that your students are using to tell their digital stories, then please leave a comment on this blog. we would love to hear from you. 

  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    Transforming teaching and learning - a teacher's experience of the Partners in Learning Network


    clip_image002Alessio Bernardelli teaches in Croesyceiliog School in Cwmbran, Wales, in this blog post he describes his journey with the Innovative Teachers Network programme, how it has transformed his teaching and his views on education as he has developed his own professional learning network.

    These are his thoughts…..

    Back in 2006, I took part in a Partners in Learning project with Welsh Assembly Government called “Excellence in Science and ICT”, to develop examples of the use of technology in science. At first I thought it would just be about the free software I would receive. But it became clear that this experience was to become an opportunity to learn a lot more than just about some amazing software to use for teaching and learning in the classroom, like Photo Story 3, Photosynth and personal favourite, Plex for PowerPoint. But, it was that contact and discussion with like minded individuals that sparked a series of ideas in my head, it felt like I had been in the darkness until that moment.

    In that first meeting my mental framework radically changed and my focus shifted from teaching to learning, from directive lessons to active learning opportunities for my pupils. I felt very blessed in having been chosen to take part to this project. But it was pure luck that I became involved, a chance meeting between a friend of mine and Stuart in a gym, (amazing I know, Stuart in a Gym!). But it lead to a series of events that changed the way I think about my own teaching. I was encouraged to submit one of the resources I created to the UK Innovative Teachers Forum. Even though I am Italian living here in Wales, I had the honour to be chosen to represent Wales in the Worldwide Innovative Teachers Forum 2007 held in Helsinki, to my absolute surprise and joy I received an award there. Thanks to this achievement Microsoft invited me to an Innovative Teachers Event in Redmond, Seattle. There I met even more innovative teachers from around the world and one of the highlights there was meeting Bill Gates. At this event I had the opportunity to participate to seminars and workshops from leading Educators Worldwide. In terms of Professional Development one could not ask for more. But, professional development should not just stop, so I have tried to build my own professional learning network, through the Partners in Learning Network, Twitter and my own blog. This has meant further opportunities to work on other projects and with other organisations, such as the Institute of Physics. As well as contributing to the Partners In Learning Network through projects  as the Innovids Summer Camp and the most recently Peer Coaching Programme.

    So, my journey began in a very random way, it could have been so easily an opportunity missed. But, the Partners in Learning Network and its contribution to my own professional learning network has provided the perfect portal to connect with Educators from all over the world. This has transformed my teaching. I have also watched the Partners in Learning Network move forward a great deal. There have never been so many members and the free resources available in the network. The quality of which is increasing every year. Proof is the fact that it is so much harder than when I started to get in the top ten at the U.K. Innovative Teachers Forum. So, I really got there at the right time!

    So, what has caused the transformation in my teaching? Quite simply two factors mainly.

    1. The great resources available free of charge on the Partners in Learning Network which really open up opportunities for the learners to become more independent in their education

    2. The willingness to push the boundaries and try innovative approaches with my classes which I have learnt from the  innovative Educators within the network and beyond.

    Thanks Partners in Learning Network for opening my horizons to explore new frontiers.

    You can follow Alessio on Twitter at and follow his Educational Blog at

  • Microsoft Teacher's Blog

    A great new resource from Microsoft Education Labs - Flashcards


    The resource maybe new, but the idea I can remember from my own primary school days. Microsoft Education Labs have created a 21st century version of flashcards.  Flashcards remain one of the best tools for memorising information. Used by teachers and students to remember facts, dates and vocabulary, the most common way to create flashcards is to use pieces of card. A question is written the on one side and the answer on the opposite side, students can test themselves repeatedly.  This is great for visual learners, but the experience and effectiveness of this method of learning can be greatly enhanced, to encompass a broader range of learning styles, if you could add sound, images and feedback on how you are doing. This new resource has the functionality to add all of those features.

    imageYou can find the flashcards at . You can view any of the flashcard decks, but to create your own and use the study features, you will need to sign in with your Windows Live ID. Once signed in click Create and you will see a screen that allows you to create your card, the left hand side of the card is for the ‘question’ and the right for the ‘answer’. The great thing is that you can use images and add audio, allowing you to create resources for all subjects, age groups and abilities.

    The really great feature is the reporting tool which records the usual details of how many you got right or wrong, as well as how well you are memorising the information and the time it took you to complete the deck. Which makes it ideal for self and peer assessment.

    Creating a deck is very easy, I managed to create a deck to teach the welsh words for various colours in a matter of minutes. This would be a resource I would have used when I was teaching 10-11 year old pupils the welsh language, which is compulsory in schools in Wales. Flashcards are an integral strategy in language teaching. When I was in the classroom , I would have converted all my flashcard resources to this online version. This would mean that my pupils could practice at home and work with their parents (the majority of which would have been non-welsh speakers). They would have been able to bring in their own and parent’s reports on how well they are doing, resulting in a great little piece of parental engagement. I think pupils making their own Flashcard decks, highlighting their own learning would be a great activity. This would also make a great interactive whiteboard activity, a lesson starter or lesson reflection.

    These flashcards are by no means just for primary pupils, secondary students and teachers could use them for revision purposes. with specific subject facts being imagesupported with visual and audio clues. Imagine how useful a flashcard deck to learning the periodic table would be to your students.

    You will need to install the latest version of silverlight to use this resource. If you would like to try out my welsh colours Flashcards, then click on this link , then click on ‘Llwyiau’. You will then be able to view and listen to the deck, if you sign in with your Live ID, you can test yourself on how well you are doing learning these words.

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